The Diet and Exercise Private Tutor

Story excerpts from the second release of Healthy U of Delmarva's fitness program, imagined and written by Alan K. Lipton. © 2004 by Mitzi Perdue, MPA. Used by permission as portfolio material.

Following are a few typical days in the life of a warm, wise, gender-neutral Private Tutor.

Day 2, Week 1

Character: Private Tutor

Hi, [username]. Did you have a good day? I did, too, and thanks for asking. Things are calm here inside this computer of yours. Macros are meshing smoothly, subroutines are running like mountain streams, and that electron breeze feels wonderful on my skin. Yes, I have a body, with skin and everything, although it's not a body in the same way that yours is. But fitness is just as important to me as it is to you. That's why I'm involved with the cyberspace campus of Healthy U. And tomorrow I'll introduce you to our fitness coach. You'll like him. Everyone does.

Day 17, Week 3

Character: Private Tutor

Oh, [username]. I'm so embarrassed. Yesterday while Peter Katz introduced himself, my dumb dog Hungry got into his Fast Food for Quick Minds class and worked the room like a pro. Okay, she's no dummy. She knew exactly what she was doing. She mooched a taste of every lunch on the premises, even when I asked people not to feed her. They laughed at her, but even worse, they compared her to Bigg Lugg, the dog character in Hunormous Burger's award-winning 'Hungry as a Hound' ad. Lugg is so fat that everyone carries him around in his constant search for more Hunormous Burger food. How does this model physical fitness? And what am I going to do about poor Hungry?

Day 23, Week 4

Character: Private Tutor

As it turns out, [username], I heard from both Mom and Dad yesterday. Mom was all excited about her new animal-vegetable-mineral diet, which actually sounds more like a fat-fiber-heavy metal diet. I think I won't eat dinner there for a while! Dad called a little later. Mom is on his case again about 86ing his collection of punch cards and paper tapes. It's not as if he actually stores current data on them. They're just part of his history, and he doesn't want to let go. Maybe Mom wants to redecorate, I don't know. What did I do to deserve parents like these? I'm sure yours are less crazy, [username]. Do I need therapy or something? Let's continue this tomorrow.

Day 25, Week 4

Character: Private Tutor

Of course you remember FadSlayer, [username]. Who could forget that masked champion of dietary common sense? Yesterday I invoked his name, but he was busy righting another wrong. He hit every café in this quadrant of cyberspace, posting a list about the do's and don'ts of artificial sweeteners. You'd be amazed by what some people think is good for them. A few stomped out in a huff when their illusions were challenged, and one irate drinker even assaulted him with a triple espresso mocha! But FadSlayer stayed the course and posted those lists! I'd love to introduce you, but masked superheroes can be a little standoffish. Let me see what I can do about this, okay?

Day 26, Week 4

Character: Freddie Decker

Hi there, [username]. Freddie Decker again, filling in for Your Friendly Computer Tutor. Your Tutor calls me a dating machine, but I have fitness adventures, too. I just finished hand-walking across the ceiling of a huge cyberspace cavern. Five miles round trip, and those stalactites are NOT conveniently placed. Plus, virtual bats are just as messy as actual bats. I tuned out the smell by planning the next lesson of a course I teach at Healthy U, Wall Running for the Caged Professional. If you're cooped up all day, you can maximize centrifugal force for power walking, jogging and sprinting. There's even a unit on positioning your wall decorations for an obstacle course. Um, about that cyber bat smell. Time for another shower. Sorry!

Day 28, Week 4

Character: Private Tutor

Guess what, [username]. You've completed four weeks of the program! Four weeks! Shake my hand, because that's impressive. So as a reward, I'll summarize the last couple of weeks in cyberspace. My dog and my parents continue to embarrass me, but at least my parents do it in private. We finally met Peter Katz, one of Healthy U's best instructors. The mysterious FadSlayer keeps making the world safe for dietary sanity. Local businesses keep joining the Huey Award program. And not only does Freddie Decker date up a storm, he also has amazing fitness adventures, and has just attracted the attention of Hunormous Burger, the unhealthy and unethical mega-corp that seems to own cyberspace, or at least would like to. Crivens! What next?

Day 38, Week 6

Character: Private Tutor

Sorry if my temper's a little short today, [username]. I just caught my overweight dog Hungry scouring the neighborhood for food, begging at kitchen doors, and tipping over trashcans. I caught her trying to hijack an ice cream truck! And maybe Hungry hates exercise, but she's an Olympic athlete when she really wants to run or resist. Worst of all, the little programs waiting for the ice cream truck thought my dog was Bigg Lugg, that awful dog from one of Hunormous Burger's awful 'Hungry as a Hound' commercials. Is this what our cyber culture has come to? Maybe I'll go live in the past with Dad for a while. Tomorrow I'll tell you if it helped.

Day 41, Week 6

Character: Freddie Decker

Hi there, [username]. Freddie Decker reporting on my little chat with Maddy Talon Clench, Hunormous Burger's Chairwoman of Franchise Acquisitions. Yes, I got back to her, but don't worry, [username]. I'm not interested in that mega-corp. It's just that Your Friendly Computer Tutor keeps taking her calls and feeling the negativity, so I had to be a pal and say, 'Thanks, but no thanks.' Oh, she was persistent, I'll give her that. For anyone else, I might have jumped through a hoop for that Lucrative Product Placement Initiative she was offering. But I explained how Hunormous Burger is the polar opposite of what Healthy U is all about. I'd like to think she finally got that. We'll see.

Day 53, Week 8

Character: Private Tutor

At least FadSlayer isn't sleeping on the job, [username]. He went after the animal-vegetable-mineral diet people, and it wasn't pretty. (Luckily, Mom saw the light and she's off that one!) He showed them that, while they weren't eating toxic sludge, their special concoction definitely looked (and smelled) like it, compared to better sources for the same nutrient mix. He convinced some of them that it was better to go around smiling rather than grimacing with acute indigestion, although you'd think that would be a no-brainer. And while I'm not agreeing with Hunormous Burger's 'taste is more important than anything else' tagline, taste definitely helps. Know what, [username]? Since Mom was on this diet, Dad probably has something to say about it.

Day 54, Week 8

Character: Private Tutor

I was hoping that Dad would have something interesting to add about the animal-mineral-vegetable diet, but he said that he didn't notice anything different about Mom while she was following it, which could be either good news or bad news. Then Dad, being Dad, went spinning out on his own little loop about wireless technology. So what's his issue with wireless? 'I don't know, Backup,' he says, 'but I'd be careful about wireless stuff if I were you. Don't trust any hardware if you can't see the cables, that's my motto.' I'm sorry, but I can't be bothered with this, especially now that real trouble is coming to our quadrant of cyberspace. Details tomorrow.

Day 68, Week 10

Character: Peter Katz

Hello, [username]. I'm Peter Katz, and I have to tell you something. From your early visits to cyberspace, you've heard about FadSlayer, champion of dietary common sense. Well… I'm FadSlayer. Yes, nutrition fads often take hold too quickly for this mild-mannered professor, and sometimes I have to get out there and shake our quadrant of cyberspace by its lapels. I've made veiled references to the difficulties of a double life, but that's easier than the complications with students and especially faculty if I did all this trend-busting openly. My recent interaction with Hunormous Burger has added a lot of pressure to my life, and I had to share my secret with someone who won't tell. Thanks for being discreet about this, [username]!

Day 69, Week 10

Character: Private Tutor

[username], can you believe it? Our own Peter Katz and FadSlayer are actually one and the same! And if that's not crazy enough for you, guess what happened yesterday when Peter was confessing. I got a call from Hunormous Burger. A very friendly call. A warm invitation, in fact. A program named Chris Veneer, Director of Something-or-Other, I didn't quite catch it, actually wants to meet with me. This is the perfect opportunity to take my message into the heart of dietary darkness, the very belly of that unhealthy beast we know as Hunormous Burger. There's so much I want to say, [username]. Excuse me while I prepare my attack!

Day 74, Week 11

Character: Freddie Decker

Hi there, [username]. Freddie Decker again. Since Your Friendly Computer Tutor is still doing breathing exercises and rehearsing lines for next week's meeting with Hunormous Burger, I thought I'd lighten the mood with another dating story. Claire heard about my recent hang-gliding adventure, so she invited me bungy jumping. In her mind there's evidently a connection, although to me it's about working with the elements versus getting slapped around by gravity. I asked Claire if she was the secret admirer who's been stalking me lately, and she said no, she'd call herself more of an open admirer. Then she deliberately tangled our bungies. Yikes! Scary but fun! But don't worry, [username], my investigation into this matter isn't over yet.

Day 80, Week 12

Character: Private Tutor

Oh, [username, username, username]! What an experience! I just got back from that meeting with the cyber folks at Hunormous Burger, and it was nothing, and I mean nothing, like what I expected! There was the ankle deep carpet that Peter Katz described a few weeks ago, what had to be the Monet that cyber-Sotheby's recently sold for $216 million to an anonymous collector, a museum quality chandelier, and food to die for! No Smashing Seas Sushi Assortment and Flash-Grilled Linx here, [username]. We're talking crepes and caviar, squab and watercress, fresh roasted espresso and private reserve wines, all served on silver and in crystal. And then there was Chris Veneer. I'll tell you about Chris tomorrow.

Day 81, Week 12

Character: Private Tutor

Where were we, [username]? Oh my, yes. My recent meeting with Hunormous Burger's Director of Consumer Perceptions, Chris Veneer. Chris has a handshake that means something and eyes that know everything. We sat across this polished mahogany table from each other, and even though the attending maid and butler moved like dancers, it was hard not to watch Chris, who commands attention without any real pretense or apparent effort. Signing a contract with this program would be just a matter of form. You can believe everything Chris tells you, and you know beyond the shadow of a doubt that your own words are making just as much of an impression. What did we talk about, [username]? More on that subject tomorrow.

Day 82, Week 12

Character: Private Tutor

Yes, I'm still talking about Chris Veneer, [username]. I left my anger at the door. Chris asked what I really wanted, and I voiced my hopes for Healthy U's positive fitness message. Chris admitted that Hunormous Burger is hosting think tanks and focus groups along those same lines. We might actually be able to work together! While I was imagining this, Chris whistled, and in trotted Bigg Lugg, the company mascot. That dog isn't nearly as awful as he looks in the cybervision ads. He's very sweet and didn't even beg for food. Chris told me that he's on a doggy diet and exercise program. I had a very different opinion of Hunormous Burger by the time I left that meeting.

Day 83, Week 12

Character: Private Tutor

[username], did you ever have to return to reality after the best experience of your life? After meeting Hunormous Burger's incredible Chris Veneer and surprisingly sweet Bigg Lugg, I came home to my own dog. Poor Hungry was locked inside to keep her from scavenging and mooching all over the neighborhood. She hadn't eaten for hours, and she was frantic. I gave her a low-calorie dinner and sat with her while she ate. I talked about Bigg Lugg being on a doggy diet and exercise program, and Chris Veneer giving me a completely different idea about Hunormous Burger's direction, and maybe changing my own course to match theirs. Hungry started whimpering at this, and I'm still not sure why.

Day 84, Week 12

Character: Private Tutor

Sorry for being so wrapped up in myself, [username]. You're just finishing your twelfth week here, and you're a true star! No mega-corp will shake the ground under your feet, unless of course you want it to. You might even meet the most beautiful, promising program ever -- well, in your world that would be a person, not a program -- and you won't even be dazed about what he or she is offering or to what degree you've already accepted. You'll be okay with telling your friends about it, confident that they'll believe you're doing what's best. And don't worry about Me, Your Friendly Computer Tutor. Because no matter what happens in cyberspace, I'm still here for you, okay? I promise!

Day 87, Week 13

Character: Private Tutor

Oh, [username]. I feel bad for Exquisite Burger. All their resources are going into that frivolous trademark infringement lawsuit by Hunormous Burger (over use of the name 'Burger'), and they just withdrew their catering bid for the Huey Awards banquet. So now it's down to a contest between Sweet on U and Food for Thought. Even if I'd remembered to ask Chris Veneer about having Hunormous Burger's legal department call off the suit, it might not have made a difference. Exquisite Burger was just breaking even, and they were looking forward to a high-profile catering opportunity. Maybe this will make them a stronger candidate for the Huey itself -- if they're still in business by then. Is this my fault, [username]?

Day 88, Week 13

Character: Private Tutor

So, [username]. I'm still haunted by Chris Veneer's thousand-watt, million-gig, billion-dollar smile. Yet I have to wonder if Hunormous Burger is truly studying a mission shift toward promoting Healthy U's kind of fitness. I heard Chris suggest they were. I mean, I think I heard that. But I was just reading about their ballooning market share in untapped quadrants of cyberspace, and I'm trying to see the business sense of doing a complete one-eighty in product and message when so many new programs are so eagerly jumping on the junk food bandwagon. There IS no business sense in a move like that! Are they really planning to clean up their act? Was Chris just telling me what I wanted to hear?

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